October is National Farm to School Month, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is celebrating in a few ways.
Farm-to-school programs focus on bringing fresh, local food to schools. But they also offer nutrition education that emphasizes hands-on activities, including school gardens, field trips to local farms and cooking classes. Studies published in Childhood Obesity and the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found strong farm-to-school programs encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables, which reduces plate waste.
On Oct. 6, CPS will take part in Midwest Menu Day with school districts in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Des Moines, Detroit, Cleveland and Omaha. What’s on the menu in all of these cities? Local antibiotic-free chicken, a local apple, local green beans and a local broccoli slaw. All seven of these cities are a part of School Food FOCUS and have agreed to serve more local food in their cafeterias. School Food FOCUS, is an organization that works with school districts to break down marketplace barriers to sourcing fresh and healthy food.
On Oct. 13. CPS will participate in the Illinois Great Apple Crunch. Each student in all CPS schools will receive a local Macintosh apple as part of their lunch and students will “crunch” into the apples together.
On Oct. 19, CPS will be serving local corn in a roasted corn relish. This side dish was part of the recipe from George Washington High School that won Cooking up Change in Chicago and placed second in the Cooking up Change national finals in June 2016.
CPS has been a leader in the farm to school movement for years. During the 2014-2015 school year, CPS served almost 4 million pounds of local foods, including fresh apples, antibiotic-free chicken, frozen carrots, frozen peas and fresh potatoes.
CPS received a USDA grant in October 2012 to start the Eat What You Grow program that allows schools to harvest food from their gardens and incorporate the produce into the school meal program.
Healthy Schools Campaign believes health and wellness should be incorporated into every aspect of the school experience, which is why supporting healthy school food has been a focus of our work over the last decade. Farm-to-school programs play an important role in our ongoing school food policy initiatives, innovative procurement strategies, food education, school garden development and parent engagement.
We’re excited to see all the great things the district is planning for National Farm to School Month, and we’re looking forward to continuing to make lunch trays around Chicago healthier and filled with more local food.